Friday, January 30, 2009

dn's Chili Con Carne

There are countless chili recipes out there, each claiming to be the definitive version or a perfect variation. Chili is one of those recipes that inspires creation and variation. Mine never turns out exactly the same every time, as I rarely measure the veggies or spices. I go by what I have on hand and what looks about right. That meant that to create this recipe in print for this post, I actually took the extra time to MEASURE every single ingredient when I made this a couple of weeks ago! This recipe has a lot of ingredients, but once you try it, I'm sure you will agree that it has a great variety of flavours all rolled into one. It is heavy on protein and has lots of veggies thrown in. I garnish each serving with a bit of grated low fat cheddar cheese, a dollop of fat free sour cream and a sprinkle of chopped green onion. I also have a small side salad and either my Focaccia Bread, Corn Muffins or Homemade Buns along with it. All in all this is one very hearty and healthy meal!
dn's Chili Con Carne

olive oil
1 pound/454 grams lean ground beef or turkey
2 cups chopped onion (1 large)
1 cup chopped red bell pepper (1 large)
1 cup celery, chopped (1 rib)
2 Tablespoons minced garlic (bottled type)
1 cup grated carrot
1 cup grated zucchini
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1 540 gram/19 ounce can white kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 540 gram/19 ounce can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 540 gram/19 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 398 ml/14 ounce brown beans in tomato sauce
2 cups frozen kernel corn, thawed
1 cup crushed stewed tomatoes
1 680 ml/24 ounce pasta sauce
1 1/2 cups salsa (mild or medium)
1 Tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons dried basil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic pepper (or black pepper)
6 -10 drops Tabasco sauce

Add about 2 Tablespoons of oil to a dutch oven and heat. Add the ground meat, crumbling it into small pieces as you add it. Brown thoroughly, stirring often. Remove the meat to a paper towel lined plate. Add the onion, pepper and celery to the dutch oven. You may need to add a bit more oil. Stir and cook till onions are translucent. Add the garlic, carrot, zucchini and mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often.

Return the meat to the veggies in the dutch oven, then add the white, kidney, black, and brown beans. Also add the corn, tomatoes, pasta sauce and salsa. Stir well. Bring to a gentle boil then reduce to medium low heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring often.

Add the chili powder, basil, oregano, cumin and pepper. Stir well. Add a few drops of Tabasco sauce - stir well and simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes stirring occasionally.

- All of the ingredients for this recipe were no name or store brand products, so that will cut down on the cost, but it does not cut down on the flavour!
- Tabasco sauce is VERY potent, so use sparingly! 6 to 10 drops will give you a mild chili - if you like it hotter, you can add a bit more - just go easy as you can't take it out once it is in!
- Don't cook the chili (or any other dish for that matter) more than 15 to 20 minutes after adding the spices, or they will loose their potency and leave a bland taste to the dish.

This recipe makes about 10 cups of chili. One cup is more than enough for one serving with this potent combo of protein and veggies. Garnish with grated cheddar, sour cream and chopped green onion.

Portion the leftovers into individual servings and freeze in an air tight container for up to six months.



Tuesday, January 27, 2009


I've been making buns off and on for years, but I tried making this amazing Focaccia Bread for the first time in early December. I had tried a similar idea a few years ago, using a loaf of frozen bread dough, but it just wasn't as tasty as homemade dough. I was going to be hosting a dinner on the 10th and decided to do a test run a week or so before the big evening to make sure that this would work. Well, I wasn't disappointed! It was absolutely delicious and my guests LOVED it! I served it with Chick Souvlaki, Tzatziki Sauce, Oven Roasted Potatoes and a Salad.

This is actually a variation of the Homemade Bun recipe that I posted last April.


1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoon quick rise yeast
4 1/2 teaspoons oil
2 Tablespoons white sugar (OR 4 1/2 teaspoons liquid honey)
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups warm (not boiling) water
1 - 2 cups flour (all purpose, whole wheat flour or combo of both)

3/4 teaspoon basil
3/4 teaspoon oregano
3/4 teaspoon thyme
3/4 teaspoon parsley
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 teaspoon onion powder
1 1/2 teaspoon Parmesan cheese powder

Combine the whole wheat flour and yeast in a small bowl. In a large bowl combine the sugar/honey, oil, salt and egg till lightly beaten. Add water and stir until frothy. Slowly mix in the flour and yeast mixture. Gradually add the all purpose/whole wheat flour and mix well. As the dough becomes stiffer, knead with your hands so you can get a feel for the dough and know when it is no longer sticky. You will add about 1 - 1 1/2 cups in total.

Cover the dough with a tea towel and let rise for about an hour or until double in size (Note: the more whole wheat flour you use the longer it will take to rise.)

Combine the topping ingredients and set aside.

Spray a 10"X15" (25.4cm x 38.1 cm) baking pan with non stick cooking spray such as Pam. Punch down the dough and then place the dough on the pan. Grease your hands with a bit of margarine or a shot or two of Pam. Using your fingers and the palms of your hands, gradually spread the dough evenly over the entire pan. (Note that the dough will be a bit sticky and tend to want to shrink back towards the center, but if you keep your hands greased and keep working the dough it will cover the whole pan.) Using a fork, poke holes in the dough about an inch apart. This will help the dough to rise more evenly and not shrink back from the edges as much.

Spray the top of the dough with Pam or brush with cooking oil. Sprinkle the topping mix evenly on top. Cover the pan with a tea towel and let bread rise till almost double in size - about 45 - 55 minutes depending on room temperature and how much whole wheat flour you used.

Just before baking, use a pizza cutter or sharp knife and cut the dough into about 15 pieces - I do it so that it is 3 pieces wide and 5 pieces long. The cuts will allow for more even baking and for easier cutting after it comes out of the oven.

Bake in a 350F oven for about 15 - 18 minutes or until a light golden brown. Slide the baked bread onto a wire rack and cool for 5 - 10 minutes before serving.

The leftovers, can be wrapped in plastic wrap and kept in an air tight bag in the freezer for about 2 months.

- When spreading the dough, it is tempting to tear parts of it and work it into sides and corners, but I find that once the dough is torn, that it doesn't always want to connect with the rest of the dough and will leave gaps in your dough as it shrinks back to itself. It takes a little longer using the method I listed above, but overall it gives a better appearance and is worth the extra couple of minutes effort.
-You could use other spices in the topping depending on what you like or don't like. You could even use part of a package of ranch dressing mix or other mixes, although most of those contain additional additives and salt.
-You could add the seasoning to the dough itself, but it has a nicer flavour if left on the top.
- You could mix up a larger batch of the topping mix and label it so that it is ready whenever you make the recipe. (I would recommend a Tablespoon of each of the six seasonings and 2 Tablespoons of the cheese.)
- Try adding about 2/3 cup grated medium cheddar to the dough before adding the last of the flour. Mix a teaspoon of flour to the cheddar first, so that the cheese does not clump together.

Serving suggestions:
This bread is great served with any soup, salad, chili, stew etc. It can also be sliced horizontally and filled with pretty much any sandwich fillings. I love it with ham and cheese or a tuna filling. I've also topped pieces with a bit of salsa or sliced tomatoes and sprinkled with grated mozzarella or Monterrey Jack cheeses and stuck it under the broiler till the cheese is bubbly!

Warning!!! This bread is so delicious that it is downright addictive! I'm not usually a big bread eater - except when it is fresh from the oven - but this one doesn't last long in the freezer either!!! I made this again this past Wednesday and served it with a chef's salad for my supper. I ended up eating 4 pieces before I made myself freeze the rest! I then ate another one for lunch on Thursday with a filling of ham and cheese!



Saturday, January 24, 2009

BBBRRRRR!!!I The Deep Freeze Is Back!!

Well, we had a bit of a break from the deep freeze - for about a week! We went from several weeks with highs around -25C/-13F (before the wind chill is added on) to temperatures around 0C/32F. Talk about a shock to the system! It was really a heat wave! It was just long enough to let things melt a bit and then freeze over and make things even more fun when it comes to walking and driving!

The city crews took advantage of that mild spell to clean up some of the streets, sidewalks, boulevards and snowbanks at intersections. They do this work mostly in the overnight hours, when people like me are trying to sleep and all you hear is the sounds of heavy snowplow equipment and large trucks rumbling along your street while you are trying to get some much needed rest from all the exercise you got while you were maneuvering in and around all the ruts and snowbanks they left while cleaning up after the last snowfall!

Note to city: Next time please check with my schedule to see if I need to be up early the next morning as I really need my sleep and as much as I appreciate your cleaning up in the wee hours of this past Wednesday morning - I wish you could have done my street on a night that I could have slept in the next morning. Better yer, I wish you could have done it Sunday night into Monday, as I was already awake for two hours with insomnia! Is that really too much to ask?

I know that most of Canada and parts of the USA have been having a bitterly cold and stormy winter, but those of us here in Manitoba, are used to this. We dress in layers and go on about our business even when the wind chill factor hits -50C/-58F. When it gets that cold, you have a choice. You either stay home and hibernate or you suck it up and get out and get some air and a little exercise.

I'll admit, that it isn't much fun when it is that cold - especially when you are wearing so many layers that you look and feel like the Abominable Snowman. Climbing the stairs on any of the older city buses should be considered a true aerobic workout dressed like that! It should also be considered a double workout if you are wearing a backpack full of groceries or carrying heavy shopping bags!

It takes a special kind of person to survive a Manitoba winter. A lot of people bitch about the cold and the snow or even try to "escape" for a week or two to a warmer climate, but they are only making it harder on themselves by exposing their systems to extremes in temperatures and our hatred of their ability to actually leave without taking us with them!!! The nerve of some people!!

I'm not a big fan of the really cold weather but if I had to choose between -30C and +30C, I'll take -30C thank you. As my grandmother always said: "You can always put more clothes on, but there is only so much you can take off!"


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Sometimes Morals Suck!

I've been writing this blog for almost a year now and I've talked about a lot of personal beliefs and opinions. I've shared my feelings on a number of very personal things, like religion, inner peace, my weight, vision loss and looks.

I've written about my beliefs in "Love at First Sight", "Soul Mates" and "Telepathy". I wrote a post about "Female/Male Relationships". I even wrote posts in November called "An Open Letter - Dear Mr. Right" ( part 1 and part 2 ).

I really do believe in the personal things that I write about, but there is also a flip side to what I've written about love and relationships that I haven't talked about.

As much as I cherish my independence and privacy, there are times that it really sucks being single and alone. There are days and many nights that I wish there was someone to share a thought, an embrace, and the more intimate pleasures of being alive.

I know that I am not alone in this. There are millions of single women and men who are in the same boat. There are even many married people who lack that connection and intimacy.

We are all human and whether we want to admit it or not, we long for that human touch and the pleasures of intimacy. What separates us, is where we sit on the moral compass of relationships. Some are in relationships emotionally and physically. Some are there on an emotional level, but not so much physically. Some are in it more for the physical benefits and try to avoid the emotional side.

I've never been in the "physical benefits only" division, but there have been times that I've been very tempted. You feel a strong attraction to someone and you can't help but wonder what it would be like to be with that person. You feel an emotional or a physical chemistry, but you have to stop because if you don't you'd be crossing a line that you swore you wouldn't cross. The urge is very strong but you feel compelled to fight it. If you crossed that line strictly for physical benefits, you will only end up being hurt or hurting someone else - especially if either of you are not "free" to pursue. No matter how hard we try, the physical will become emotional for at least one person at some point.

Sometimes you can avoid the person, but that isn't always a viable option. An affair may seem like an option, but if they cheat with you, the odds are they will cheat on you. If you risk telling the other person how you feel, it could get very awkward if the feeling isn't mutual or one of you isn't free. For many, the only acceptable answer is to just enjoy that few minutes of chemistry when that person is around. If it is meant to be, then someday, somehow you will be together.

Remember the old 1978-1984 TV series "Fantasy Island"? You know, the one with Ricardo Montalban (who just passed away this past week at age 88) as the host Mr. Roarke and Hervé Villechaize as his assistant, Tattoo? Every week, people would arrive on the island to fulfill a fantasy. Some were wild adventures, some were touching, some were fun and some were... well let's just say of a more intimate nature. They pretty much wanted a free pass to explore the fantasies of the "What if...." variety. They wanted to experience guilt free pleasure and intimacy with a lost love, a friend, an acquaintance, or a fantasy lover. There was usually a consequence of some sort to the weekend, but that part wasn't always fully explored. There were moral lessons, but it was more focused on the pleasure and escapism of the story. It was fitting for the free wheeling sexual revolution of the time, but there were and are consequences.

In 1998, there was a brief remake of the series, with Malcolm McDowell (Mr. Roarke) and Fyvush Finkel and Sylvia Sidney as elderly travel agents who arranged the trips, but it only lasted 13 weeks as it was seen as a little too dark. It tended to show the consequences of our fantasies in more detail than many of us would want to know. Personally, I loved the dark humour that was often displayed with this remake.

So here I am - 51, single and no one to share with. There is nothing wrong in being single and nothing wrong in enjoying a few fantasies of the "What if..." variety. Despite, what some might say, there is also nothing wrong with learning to pleasure one's self - in fact many of us would be even crazier if we didn't experience the occasional release. It's just that sometimes we really need that physical connection with another human being and a hug from a friend just ain't gonna cut it! Neither is sleeping with a body pillow. All the chocolate in the world can't replace that physical presence of another human being. As much as I'd like to be with my soul mate, I also just want some love and companionship. Is that really too much to ask? I know, I know, be careful what I wish for, but I want my "Fantasy Island" - consequences and all!

Yup, sometimes morals really suck.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Playing Games

I've never thought of myself as a "gamer", but there are several games that I have come to love playing on my PC! When I got my new PC in November, there were a number of games that I was unable to transfer and boy oh boy did I miss them! Playing the games that came with the PC just didn't satisfy me. I wanted my favourites back! I was in game withdrawal! Until I found them or suitable replacements, I just wasn't going to be a happy camper!

As I mentioned the other day, it started out innocently enough with playing Free Cell and Hearts. They are both fun and don't require a lot of skill - mostly luck and a good memory. The problem is that they aren't very interesting over the long haul. Playing Free Cell for more than a few rounds gets tired fast! Playing Hearts for more than a few games is fun with real people and conversation, but can get rather annoying when you are playing against three PC characters that insist on sticking you with the Queen of Spades and all the Hearts they can! Although I have won a few games and have often gotten scores in the 20's and 30's - I think it is a conspiracy!

I started looking for other games as I wanted a bit more of a challenge. I wanted to know what my vision and eye hand coordination was actually capable of doing. I had been doing Sudoku puzzles for a few years, but finding a suitable version on line wasn't easy. There just wasn't the same ability to make your own hints in the corners, without which, can make some of the more difficult puzzles next to impossible to solve. Some versions had the hints built in but that took the fun and challenge out of figuring it out for yourself. One version, Buku SuDoKu, (a Game Giveaway Of The Day feature that is trapped on my old PC!) came close. Sudoku is one of those games that is probably better left to paper and pen/pencil.

I've tried a number of jigsaw puzzles, but the only one that I play on a daily basis is Playtonium Daily Jigsaw. It is offered on a number of sites, and gives you several customizable features such as changing the background colour (a must with some puzzles that seem to wash out on the basic grey background), number of pieces (I take the 50) and piece rotation (a little too hard for these eyes).

I found a couple of mini golf games that are pretty simple visually, but at least a couple of the holes can be a real pain! I've gotten par or a bit better several times on both but can also do miserably if my aim is even slightly off! I took a screen shot of my best scorecard just to prove that I had actually done so well! "Mini Putt" "Island Mini Golf"

I've tried a number of versions of Mah Jong. (Many of the games have their own way of spelling the name) The ones that have variations of the basic Chinese tiles are far to detailed for me to see the subtle differences. Unless the game has alternate sets of tiles that are easily distinguishable, I won't even bother trying to play even the simplest boards. The one that I have found the easiest visually, is "Mahjong Towers Eternity" - I got this version, with an e-card a year ago. There are a few tile sets included and I really like the musical instrument one! You can also download a lot of layouts of varying difficulty. The game opens a browser on closing, but that is minor. Two others that I enjoy are "GameHouse Mah Jong Medley" and "Cafe Mahjongg". Some Mah Jong games will even allow you to create your own tile sets and layouts.

There is a game called "Ingenious" that is sort of a cross between Chinese Checkers, Domino's and Othello. It is a challenge to win this one, but it can be done! I had this on my old PC and was lucky enough to find another full version copy of it on line.

I have a lot of match 3 games and a few word games that I really enjoy, but I'll save my comments about those for a post down the road. For now I'd like to share a little advice and words of wisdom when it comes to finding games to play on line or to download.

There are tons of games out there in almost any theme or genre you can imagine. Some you can play on line for varying amounts of time with or without memberships and some can only be played if you download a version from the web site that includes commercials or opening a browser on closing the game. You have to BUY the full version games to get the unlimited commercial free versions.

If you DO sign up for a membership on any site:
- READ the agreement before you sign up. Some sites require you to have them as your default browser or that a toolbar be installed.
- Never use your real name! Create an online identity to protect yourself and your personal information.
- Create a strong alpha/numeric/symbol password to protect your email and games accounts.
- Create a specific email account using an online service such as Hotmail, Yahoo or Gmail that is strictly for gaming sites that require an address. That way if there is a problem, only that email account will be affected not your personal or professional accounts.
- Before disclosing any personal or financial information be sure that the URL includes "https" and there should also be a locked padlock visible with the URL or at the bottom of the page.

There are file sharing sites and software programs such as Bit Torrent and Limewire that you can use to find full versions of games, music and other programs BUT you have to be EXTREMELY careful if you venture into this area. I have had both good and bad luck with downloads from these programs. Here are a few things you should be aware of:
- Not all files/matches that fit your search criteria are safe or legitimate!
- Know the size of file/program you are looking for (you can find that info by going to a games website and doing a little reading on system requirements.
- if there are comments attached to the download READ THEM!
- ALWAYS scan files for viruses BEFORE you extract or open them!
- some games will only work if you install and run as Administrator, especially if you are using Vista.
- While installing, watch out for unwanted additions like agreeing to toolbars or changing your browser. UNCHECK those boxes whenever possible!

For the PC game novices and the wary among us, I strongly feel that the Games Forum at Giveway Of The Day is still the most informative, open and friendly place to learn about the ins and outs of almost any type of game.

Gaming is a great way to improve your mousing skills, give your brain a bit of a challenge or a way to relax! Whatever your needs, there is at least one game out there for you! So be safe and have some fun!


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Let The Games Begin!!

I enjoyed playing games as a kid. I had several board games that were fun, but since I was the youngest and we lived in the country, it was always hard to find people who wanted to play - especially the ones that took a while to play like Monopoly. I learned to play several versions of solitaire to amuse mysel, but I only remember the most basic one now. As I got a bit older, my parents and maternal grandparents taught me to play card games like "Kings In The Corner", "Rummy", "Crazy 8's", "Hearts" and "99". We also played "Yahtzee", "Uno", "Mastermind" and other games. My dad taught me to play Cribbage and I taught myself to play Backgammon.

I wasn't great at "Scrabble", but I loved a game called "Tile Rummy" that I picked up at a garage sale for $2.00 and "Othello" that I got for $3.00.

When I lost so much of my sight, I was afraid that I'd never be able to enjoy playing games again. I knew there were large print versions of many of those games available, but they were very expensive. I did buy a deck of large print playing cards, and I was able to get larger dice to play Yahtzee and to use with the Backgammon, but all the other games pretty much got shuffled to the back of the closet. I bought a few puzzle books that had decent size print, but for the most part, my game days were few and far between.

I knew there were lots of computer games out there, but I didn't think that I'd ever get a computer so I never explored it. When I did get the PC in October of 2006, it took me awhile to get to the games, as there was so much other stuff I needed to learn. I was having trouble with my mousing skills and a couple of people suggested that I start playing "Free Cell" to get used to the mouse and improve the movement of the cursor. I played a lot of Free Cell over the next few weeks and also got hooked on playing "Hearts". The other games that were on the computer were too difficult for me to see and play with any degree of comfort and success.

I knew there were a lot more games out there, but the trick was where to find them and were the web sites safe? I tried a few on line games, but most sites required a membership to play more than a few levels of anything. I was still pretty new to PC's and wasn't ready to put myself out there much even for a free membership.

It took me several months of exploring and trying different game formats, but I figured out that the games that were the best for my sight were ones that didn't have a lot of action or rapid movement. I was lousy at anything that required key strokes. Puzzle and match 3 formats were becoming my games of choice.

While searching for new games in June of 2007, I stumbled across Game Give Away Of The Day. At the time they were giving away a free full version game every day! No membership required! The only condition, was that you had to download, install and activate the game during the 24 hour time period or you would only get a trial version. I thought this was too good to be true, but after watching the site for a few days and reading the comments and forums, I realized that I had wandered into a potential gold mine!

Well long story short, the game site now only offers games on the weekends, but a few of the loyal and dedicated gamers, have created a lengthy list of freeware alternatives to keep people happily passing the time. The games are in pretty much every genre, but there is a master list that was compiled by a member known as g@rgoyle that has links to most of the games they have found so far: Free Weekday Games - ALPHABETICAL Synopsis

When you click on any of the game names on that list, it will take you to the relevant forum thread where the game was introduced. You will find a review of the game, system requirements and a link to the actual site to download the game. Most of the reviews are done by Stephen, who is known as the game guru and "Whiterabbit". Stephen is a dedicated gamer and volunteer who has given his heart and soul to this site! He spends countless hours searching out freeware games and testing them for us, so that we know what we are getting before we waste our time. He details installation, system requirements, game play and any glitches or other problems that may occur. He often includes links to show photos and video of the various games. He, wizzard_of_ozz2004 (games master) and their merry band of gamers post new freeware alternatives on a daily basis. They also inform us of the various games sites reliability for service, product and whether or not the games include commercials or open a browser at the end of your game play. Regardless of what you download or where you download from, you should ALWAYS scan the files with your security system BEFORE you open and install. It only takes a few seconds and can save you a lot of headaches!

Thanks to Whiterabbit and his pals, I have found many games that I can easily play.

If you are looking for some fun, free ways to wile away a few hours/days, then I strongly urge you to check out the games forums. There are several pages of threads and among them you will find some that are dedicated to one specific genre. Most of the games in these listings are unsuitable for my visiona and ability, but there are two threads that I have found several games on: Mahjongg Heaven and Match Three Games Heaven

Let the games begin!


Monday, January 12, 2009

Upside Down Pudding Cake

Here is one of my very favourite guilty pleasure desserts! The original recipe was called "Warm Winter Lemon Cake" from Kraft Foods. It called for a double cake mix and 2 pudding mixes, but also said that the cake needed to be baked on a cookie sheet as it goes over the sides during baking. Well, to me that is a waste so to avoid that, I divided the recipe in half and played with the original ingredients to come up with a number of varieties. I use a 2 litre/quart Corningware baking dish and rarely loose more than a Tablespoon of sauce using the single mix version, but I still put the pan under the cake to catch drips. The original recipe also called for sugar in the sauce and to sprinkle on top, but it is NOT needed and plenty sweet enough without it, so I just eliminated it. Obviously the chocolate is my favourite, but the lemon and fruit based versions, that I've listed below, follow close behind. So use your imagination and try almost any variation of cake and pudding flavours that you enjoy!

Upside Down Pudding Cake

1 pkg. (single layer size) cake mix*
1 cup 1% cold milk
2/3 cup water
1 pkg. (4-serving size) Instant Pudding Mix (regular not sugar free or light)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare cake batter as directed on package. Pour into greased 2 quart/litre (deep) baking dish; set aside.

Pour milk and water** into large bowl. Add pudding mix. Beat with wire whisk 2 min. or until well blended. Carefully, pour evenly over cake batter - DO NOT DTIR! Place baking dish on baking sheet to catch any sauce that bubbles over sides of dish as dessert bakes.

Bake 45- 50 minutes or until wooden toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean. Cool 20 min. (Sauce will thicken slightly as it cools.) Spoon into serving dishes to serve warm. Leftovers can be covered and stored in refrigerator.

*Note: If you can't find single layer mixes in the flavour you want, you can buy a double layer mix and measure it in half. I've had to do that quite often with the lemon variety as they are harder to find in single size. Weights vary by box, so I just take a half cup measure and alternately measure into two dishes. I measure the last bit with a spoon and then put the contents of one bowl in a zippered bag and label as 1/2 cake mix for the next time I want to make this dessert! I actually made the lemon one on the weekend. The box was 520 grams/18.3ounces. I could have weighed the mix with my kitchen scale and saved 260 grams/9.15 ounces, but I measured it out. I got two portions of 1 1/2 cups plus 2 Tablespoons of mix. The double mix called for three eggs - I used 2, but one would be more than enough and less likely to boil over in the oven.

- Chocolate cake mix and chocolate pudding mix
- Lemon cake mix and lemon pudding mix
- Vanilla cake with vanilla pudding mix,
** With the vanilla combo, instead of using water in the cake mix and with the sauce mix, substitute a fruit juice such as mango, pineapple, orange or a Five Alive type juice. I have also used canned mango pulp (available in foreign food section of major grocers). I diluted it 2 parts pulp to 1 part water.
- Vanilla cake mix with almost any flavour pudding mix

I serve this warm, with a scoop of home made ice cream or a spoonful of whipped topping . This is also good cold, but you can warm individual portions in the microwave. Put the cake part in the bottom of a bowl and cover with a spoonful or two of sauce then heat on medium power for about 30 seconds or so. I've even been known to put a few chocolate chips on top of the cake before adding the sauce for warming. Don't add chips or nuts to the actual baking as they don't stay with the cake as it bakes. They kind of get mushy in the sauce.

I submitted my comments on the original recipe to the Kraft website and you will find them in the comments section for the original recipe, but here is what I wrote
:"This is a FABULOUS and YUMMY dessert! I also use single pouch cake mix and pudding and half the liquids and bake in a 2 litre corning ware casserole dish so it doesn't boil over. I've made several versions including the lemon and the chocolate. Tonight, I tried something new. I used vanilla cake and pudding mixes. Instead of using water I used mango pulp (Comes in large cans) that I diluted; 2 parts pulp/1 part water. Served warm with homemade ice cream - WOW - talk about flavour!"
Submitted on 2/3/2008 by dnsyl57



Friday, January 9, 2009


I took down my Christmas tree and all the decorations the other day. It is always a little melancholy to put it all away. My decorations all have meaning to me. I don't buy or save them just to have decorations. Some I inherited from my maternal grandmother, some my mom made, some I made, some were gifts from friends. A lot are part of my Sylvester and Tweety collection or other pieces I have just seen in stores and craft sales and thought would compliment my decor. I've even kept ones that are broken or damaged in hopes that someday, I'll find a way to get them repaired.

Several years ago, I did give away a lot of my larger ornaments and pieces that I just didn't feel a connection to, It wasn't easy. Actually, I had put those decorations in a separate box a few years earlier with the intention of giving them away but I just wasn't ready to part with them. When I did finally go through the box again, I'd forgotten about a lot of them. Some I didn't even remember owning! I took out a few and saved them, but I was ready to part with the others. It felt good to give them to others that would appreciate them.

The whole process of undecorating can be a challenge in itself. You usually end up missing at least one or two things and only find them after you've put all the boxes back in the cupboard!

When I was growing up, we would decorate several rooms. The living room had the most, as that was where the tree was, but there were decorations in the dining room, kitchen, hallway, doorways and even a little something on the bathroom mirror! It wasn't overdone, it was just a big house and we did a lot of entertaining. The decorating process took mom a day or so as she wanted to find just the right place for everything. Dad would help with the tree (especially when we used a real one) and some of the other stuff, but it was usually mom and whichever of us kids were around to help. It was fun opening all the boxes and seeing all the treasures and figuring out where to put them each year. Some things always went in the same places, but some also got moved around to different places and rooms. If the tree was full, we'd hang stuff on lamps, curtain rods, door knobs - where ever there was somewhere unique to put it!

It didn't get any better after we remodeled the house in the late 1960's. The living room/dining room was one large open area (20'x26') and the kitchen was later expanded to include a large sun room (combined about 30'x13'). That is a lot of common space to decorate, so it was only natural that at least one or two items didn't make it back into the boxes every January!

We'd inspect every branch of the tree, then walk around the rooms, looking at all the lights, shelves, knobs, rods and still manage to miss something. It was a treasure hunt version of "I spy with my little eye..."! It was always a running joke in our home that as we walked around looking, mom would say things like: "Is that everything? Did we miss anything?" "Okay if there are any more decorations still out - speak up - NOW!" Silence. "Nobody?" "Last chance!" "These boxes are going in the cupboard and they aren't coming out till next Christmas!"

When a decoration would inevitably be found a few days later, mom would chide it for not speaking up when it had the chance! Then she'd pull out the stool and open a top cupboard and stick the ornament in a box or in a bag on the shelf.

Well, I guess the apple didn't fall far from the tree, as I usually miss at least one decoration as I put things away for the next Christmas. My whole apartment is just under 500 sq.ft. so I blame my lack of sight for missing anything.

I think I got everything this year, but time will tell. If I did miss anything, then they should have spoken up when I asked if everything was in the box.


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Calvin and Hobbes Snowman Cartoons

I added an old "Calvin and Hobbes" strip to my last post, and that reminded me that I had gotten an e-mail in December with a collection of their snowman themed cartoons. I had almost forgotten how funny this strip could be. Since we are in the dead of winter and so much of Canada and the northern USA is under a blanket of snow, I thought that seeing these creations would make you laugh and just maybe to have a little fun with snow a la "Calvin and Hobbes"!!!


Saturday, January 3, 2009

A Fresh Start

Here in Winnipeg, we woke up to a light blanket of fresh new snow on New Year's Day morning. A new start to a brand new year! What we do with that new start is up to us.

Many people make New Year's resolutions and by now many have already broken those resolutions, but that doesn't mean that the whole year is a failure or that we shouldn't try again. On the contrary, few people succeed on the first try at a resolution.

The most common New Year's resolutions are to quit smoking, loose weight and get fit. All these and countless other resolutions are achievable IF the person is mentally prepared to actually follow through when the day to day life stresses and triggers get in the way of success.

Resolutions can often be self defeating. It's the end of a long year and everyone wants to know what your New Year's resolutions are and how you plan to follow through. If you haven't made any, you sometimes feel compelled to say you have and then to actually try and do something about them even if you haven't really felt ready or willing to. It can be a lot of pressure. To really make changes in your life you have to be mentally and emotionally ready to except the challenges for even simple resolutions.

I quit making New Year's resolutions years ago. I found it just too stressful and overwhelming to follow through. You are just coming off a month of holiday parties and get together's, the bills are all coming in and it's way to cold (here in Winnipeg anyway) to get out and do things. January is a month to hibernate and be reflective. It is the month to figure out what you want and how to achieve it.

When I started loosing weight in 2000, it was mid March when I got my first piece of fitness equipment and slowly started a workout routine. I'd known for a long time that I needed to do something, but I wasn't ready. I needed time to figure out what would work the best for my needs. I spent a lot of time researching what types of fitness equipment would be effective, fit in my living room and be affordable. This was a major investment emotionally, physically and financially. I didn't want to mess it up.

Now, my philosophy of waiting isn't suitable for everyone, nor should it be considered as procrastination. You have to know yourself and what your strengths and weaknesses are when it comes to changes in your life and surroundings. Some people dive right in and figure it out as they go. Some of us prefer to do a little or a lot of preparation and then take action. The preparation can be a great learning tool in itself.

Regardless of what your resolutions are or when you make them, the key is that you actually try and follow through on that fresh start.

"What if I fail?", you ask.

Life happens and you shouldn't beat yourself up or give up. If you fail, you pick yourself up, dust yourself off and remember that tomorrow is another day and that is another fresh start. It is another opportunity to get out and explore and experience life!